Shortboard Surfboards – Pros and Cons
While its origins can be dated back many centuries well before the Polynesian migrants from Indonesia introduced it through Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii and beyond, modern day surfing did not become popularised until the 1950’s when it really took off in the U.S and Australia.
Due to make its Olympic debut in the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, it is estimated that there are 50 million active surfers taking to the waves these days so the sport isn’t going away anytime soon. This said, with the increased interest in windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding and kitesurfing, there are a few more players looking to claim their piece of floating real estate.
Long v Short
As time has progressed, surfboards have decreased in size which is reflective of the dynamic nature of modern day surfing. Longboards can go up to 14’ in length, funboards are typically 6’ – 8’ long, while a shortboards range is +/- 6’ in length particularly when you get to some of the hybrid shortboards.
Longboards are easier to ride and to learn on. They offer a greater level of buoyancy, stability, glide, are easier to pick up smaller waves on and have a bit of a cool old school feel about them.
Conversely, shortboards are more challenging to ride owing to their smaller dimensions and lower levels of buoyancy. They offer a more aggressive ride, can be highly manoeuvrable and are better suited to experienced surfers.
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Many of the seasoned or old school surfers would struggle to imagine what life could be like without their surfboards. Its an ingrained behaviour that is simply part of their everyday existence. As addictive and consuming as it can be, Mother Nature knows best and on her day, she can be incredibly unforgiving.
Its not to say that she is kinder to the longboards, she favours none of her followers. The slightly more aggressive and wave hungry nature of short boarding however, does mean that the inexperienced in particular should be wary. Stay within your comment zone and wait till the training wheels are off before getting overly adventurous.
So What Characterises a Shortboard?
- Shorter in length – typically +/- 6’
- Pronounced Rockers
- Narrower Dimensions
- Thiner Streamlined Design
- Concave Shape
- Defined Sharper Rails
- Greater Fin Configuration Options
- Sharper more Aggressive Nose
- Light-weight and Easily Transportable
Short boarding is simply a much faster way of taking to the surf and tackling waves. The boards are highly responsive and manoeuvrable allowing for sharper and more dynamic turns and power through the wave. Short boarding is however highly competitive and has that degree of territorial bravado about it meaning that it can be intimidating for newbies when they first join the lineup. Understanding appropriate surfing etiquette should be an early priority just so you don’t fall a foul of other surfers or worse again do yourself or others a serious injury.
Its important to realise that shortboards are much harder to learn on so its always advised to learn on a longboard or fun board. Once you bed down the fundamentals, have a level of comfort in terms of maintaining balance, turning and keeping your momentum and speed up, then progressing to a shorter board makes sense.
All experienced surfers will have a feel for what best suits them in terms of board size and fin configurations. Its also quite common to have multiple boards so you can mix it up depending on the conditions and type of waves that you’ll be chasing. There are a few variables so don’t set this in stone, but a shortboard that is up to 6” taller than you are will typically be a nice sweet spot.
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In the Market for a New Ride?
Whether you’re buying your first shortie or are simply looking for a new ride, there are endless choices out there. Unless you have deep pockets, do your research, read the reviews and blogs, get recommendations, even take a couple of boards for a test drive if you can. A ton of information out there these days so there’s really no excuse for making a bad call.
One of our favourite manufacturers are the team at South Bay Board Co. They have a wide range of boards that extends beyond surfing and includes SUPs, Body Boards, Wakesurf Boards, Skimboards as well as a range of quality beach gear and accessories. Some of their Shortboard series are featured below.
- 6’ x 21” x 3” – entry level board for lighter beginner surfers
- Entry level design features (rockers, rounded nose and rails, squash tail) to aid stability, paddle speed and manoeuvrability
- 3-fin performance thruster soft-top screw in fin system
- Constructed with a double stringer system; lightweight EPS closed-cell core; soft foam deck and hand sanded clean-up
- For the price conscious while maintaining a focus on quality materials and the key essentials for an entry level board
- 72” x 22” x 2.75” – traditional Fish surfboard design
- 40 litres – supports riders up to 220 lbs in weight
- Rounded thruster nose and widened chest for easy pop-ups
- 4-fin quad system FCS compatible custom Shaka fins
- Hybrid construction – custom wax-free ‘fingerprint’ textured IXPE foam soft top deck + glassed hard bottom deck
- EPS closed-cell core; I-Bean Stringer System; top and bottom bamboo inner layer; heat release valve and hand tapered rails
- 78” x 22.75” x 3” – 52 litre fish surfboard for the big boys
- A ’beefy’ board with more width and thicker rails making for great stability and well suited to poor conditions
- 5 FCS compatible custom Shaka fins (quad set up + centre)
- Lightweight EPS closed cell core; I-Beam wood stringers; carbon fibre wrapped rails with Cherry Burl Body Armor
- Ideally suited to experienced larger surfers so they can tackle smaller fatter waves with greater stability and control
The Upside & Downside of Shortboards
As a comparative to longboards, here’s the long and short of it:
- Offer a high degree of manoeuvrability
- Light-weight and easily transportable
- Quicker to pick up speed
- Perform better in bigger and more powerful wave conditions
- Better for performing tricks on
- Easier to duck dive under waves (more streamlined construction so less foam)
- Faster and easier access to all sections of the wave (face, pocket, lip, tube etc.)
- Broader fin configuration options
- Gets the competitive juices flowing
- Not suitable for inexperienced surfers
- Do not offer a great degree of buoyancy
- Requires greater strength and endurance
- Harder to pop up (stand up) on
- Tougher to paddle
- More challenging on smaller waves
- The older you get the harder shorties get – endurance, mobility, strength
- Less riding time – faster into waves but faster out of waves
- More easily damaged – fragile
Some would compare riding a longboard versus shortboard to driving a minivan and a sports car. We’d prefer to be a little kinder to our bigger cousins. Any chance to take to the water and make the most of what Mother Nature has been kind enough to serve up, is a good day in our books – long or short.
We hope you found this article of interest and as always would love to get your thoughts. Please feel free to leave your comments below and we will get back to you.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.